Steamed Rice

Steamed rice is rice cooked in water as opposed to being fried first (pilaf, biryani, some Mexican styles) or cooked as a risotto, paella, rice pudding, congee or other flavoured rice dish.  Rice absorbs water as it cooks.   Steaming is an absorption preparation.  Salt is optional. It does not play a part in the cooking process and is added for taste. Steamed rice can be cooked in a pot or cooking vessel, including a pressure cooker, over a heat source, or in rice cooker appliance. Multicooker appliances (e.g. Instant Pot) with a pressure cooker function or a rice cooker function can do steamed rice or other basic cooked rice

The slow cooker may do dishes the have some rice in a soup or stew. It does not do as well as other method with plain rice where the goal is fluffy grains.

Cooked rice can used in a dish, as an accompaniment to other dishes, fried or processed further, or added to other dishes e.g. Nasi Goreng is preparation of fried cooked long grain white rice.

The editors and authors of Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen have a theory or explanation for rinsing white rice. They published it a few times, including a concept 30 in The Science of Good Cooking (2012) with their summary of their “Test Kitchen Experiment”. Their aphorism is “Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy).

CI/ATK publishes its own summaries of its test kitchen tests, but not the experimental parameters or data. They recommend considering the work of other cooks in other kitchens with other tools and techniques. But their tests are not scientific experiments that prove facts. CI/ATK concept 30 is that soaking rice is a waste of time for all rice, white or brown, regardless of kernel size but is useful for long grain white rice especially basmati and some medium grain rices, but not for short grain rice that is supposed to be creamy (for risotto) or sticky (for sushi and other Asian dishes). This is a useful generalization but not unique. For some kind of white rice, and some preparations, rinsing removes rice flour and talc and helps to keep it from getting sticky. Rinsing rice before cooking is uncommon with long grain white rice grown in the Southern USA, and with some European short grain rices (risotto rices or Spanish Bomba for paella.

Sri Owen, in The Rice Book (1993), said that steaming rice has two main steps.  Rice is simmered in water in a pot at the boiling point until the rice has absorbed the water.  Owen says that the pot can be left uncovered. At that point the rice is only parcooked. The traditional method of finishing rice is to cover the vessel and leave it on very low heat to steam the rice internally, taking it off the heat and leaving it covered. 

These steps can be compressed into a bringing the water to a boil,  covering the pot, reducing the heat. simmering, and finally resting off heat.  This method works with a (heavy) pot that disperses the heat evenly; a heavy tight lid to hold in the steam.  The heat must be reduced; the rice should just simmer. Leave it covered and set a timer. Remove from heat and set the timer for the final rest.

This requires a plan – how much water for how much rice, and how long to simmer.  The rice recipe at What’s Cooking America has a table of rice to water ratio and cooking times for several kinds of rice. The instructions at that site for cooking white rice are a bit contradictory.  There is a concise article by Fine Cooking magazine and some videos and notes at the Kitchn site. The ratio of long grain white rice to water is 1 cup of dry rice to 1.5 to 1.75  cups of water.  Some recipes go for more water. The cooking time can be from 12 to 20 minutes. The method works within a range of ratios and times.  The results may be more or less fluffy, absorbent or sticky. 

This technique works in a pressure cooker. The ratio is 1 cup of long grain white rice to 2 cups of water. When the water boils, the lid is locked and the pot is brought to high pressure, and the cooking time on high pressure is 4 minutes. Then rest off heat 10 minutes or more without releasing the pressure (i.e. do not use the release mechanism) – let the pressure drop as the pot cools.

Owen describes 3 other ways of finishing rice, including moving the rice into a collander and steaming the rice suspended in another vessel over boiling water.   This is basically parcooking the rice and put it in a steamer or collander, recommended by Jamie Oliver. Others cook the rice in boiling water, drain it, and rest the rice.

White Basmati Rice, a long grain aromatic rice originating from Northern India, Pakistan and Nepal can be cooked in a pot the same way as other white long grain rice, using about 1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups of water. Rinsing is recommended. The method is a traditional slow simmer. Refer to:

White Basmati Rice can be cooked in a pot on a stove by bringing the water and rice to boil, reducing the heat, covering the rice and simmering on low heat, and resting off the heat for 10 minutes. This is dependent on pot and heat control.  It works with:

  • 2.33 cups of water to 2 cups of rice, simmering 23 minutes, or
  • 2 cups of water to 1.5 cups of rice, simmering 19 minutes 30 seconds. 

Rinsed and soaked, White Basmati  rice can be cooked in a pressure cooker at the ratio of 1 cup rice to 1.25 cups water; the time can be 2-3 minutes on high pressure with a rest off heat as the pressure drops (i.e. not with a fast release).

Steaming brown rice takes more water, and longer cooking times. Recipes don’t  recommend rinsing or soaking brown rice. Long or medium grain brown rice:

  • conventional pot, 1 cup rice to 2.25 cups water, cooking time about 40 minutes;
  • pressure cooker, 1 cup of rice to 1.75 cups of water, cooking time 15-18 minutes (variation in the recipes). Rest off heat 10 minutes or more without releasing the pressure  – let the pressure drop as the pot cools.

Brown rice has more micronutrients and fiber than white rice.  All rice delivers carbohydrates, a source of glucose, an essential nutrient.  Getting brown rice to cook to point of tenderness and to taste good is another story.